Animated horror is often only found in either anime series, such as Parasyte and Death Note, or children’s films, such as Coraline and Monster House. It is shocking that there aren’t more animated horror films, as the medium lends itself so well to horror as strange monsters and creatures can be more easily actualized onto the screen. Animation lends itself even better to body horror, where the human body can be warped and torn apart in even more demented ways. Director Eric Power fully taps into this potential with his animated horror feature, Attack of the Demons.
It is 1994 in Barrington, a small Colorado town known for their Halloween music festival. Hundreds of tourists flood the town, and with those tourists come a few cultists seeking humanity’s destruction. While cultists work to awaken a massive demon, three high school friends are reunited. Kevin, who has stayed in town, sees old classmate Jeff and tries to start a friendship. As they head to dinner together, they also run into another old classmate, Natalie, who’s attending the music festival. As they reconnect and reminisce, the cultist eventually gets access to a microphone and unleashes a chant, which begins the demon’s awakening. The entire town of Barrington, except these three friends, are infected. Kevin, Jeff, and Natalie must band together to fight back against the apocalypse and save the world from an icky demonic death.
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The Fourth of July, the day of America’s independence, is a day full of red, white, blue, hot dogs, sun burns, and beer. It’s an excuse to have the day off to go to the pool, cook outside, and relish in the summer sun. But, it’s hard to celebrate America with our current track record of human rights issues on the U.S.-Mexico border. Gigi Saul Guerrero addresses this reality in Culture Shock, her feature film debut and the Fourth of July installment of Hulu’s Into the Dark film series. Guerrero contrasts the idyllic nature of the Fourth of July picnic against the real lives of those trying to come into the United States to show what the real American dream looks like: dark, dirty, violent, and fueled by the capitalist machine.
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Home invasion films such as Funny Games and The Strangers have confronted us with the very real possibility of the destruction of the domestic space through graphic violence. Blood splatters the walls, windows are shattered, women scream, and men gasp for breath as they try to defend what’s theirs to protect. But director Sara Summa wants to defy all we know about the violent home invasion film. In her feature film debut, The Last to See Them, Summa completely deconstructs the violent subgenre to create a film full of dread and melancholy.
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We know the typical possession movie song and dance. A priest is going through a crisis of faith. He gets a call from the Catholic Church about a possession. He begrudgingly packs up the holy water and Bible and hops on a plane. After enduring an intense battle with a demon, he realizes his faith in God (unless the demon gets him first, which does happen). It all ends in a nice little package with the Devil defeated and the evil contained. The Exorcist did it first, and best, so how can the subgenre grow? Well, Emilio Portes’ Belzebuth offers a breath of fresh air to the stale possession film, weaving a new, and dark, narrative about the neverending battle between good and evil.
Belzebuth begins in Mexico with the birth of a little boy to police officer Emmanuel (Joaquín Cosio) and his wife, Marina. The two parents gush and coo over their new baby, carefully examining each of his fingers and toes. Emmanuel gets unexpectedly called into work, but promises his wife he’ll be right back. Little does he know that this is the last time he’ll see his son. As his son is laid down in the nursery, a new nurse comes in for shift change. But something doesn’t seem right as her eyes dart around the nursery and she seems extremely on edge. Suddenly, she begins massacring the nursery and kills every baby, including Emmanuel’s. It is an extremely violent way to start off such a film, but it sets Belzebuth’s tone perfectly. This isn’t going to be a cookie-cutter film that hides violence. Rather, it is going to kill as many children as possible to show what true evil can look like.
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In 2011, Lucky McKee made a little film called The Woman about a feral woman captured by a white man. In his attempts to tame her and make her ‘civilized,’ a disturbing and disgusting story unfolds about power. In her directorial debut, Pollyanna McIntosh continues to address issues of power in the sequel to The Woman, Darlin’.
McIntosh previously starred as the titular Woman in McKee’s 2011 film, so needless to say she’s familiar with the story of a feral cannibal living in the woods. While The Woman was about the Woman, Darlin’ is about, you guessed it, Darlin’ (Lauryn Canny). She is a young girl who was raised by the Woman (McIntosh reprises her role as the cannibal), so she is also a feral cannibal. However, she is deposited at a hospital for a soon-to-be-revealed reason (she’s pregnant) so she can get the care she needs to deliver a healthy baby. Despite her lifestyle, the Woman isn’t completely devoid of common sense.
But, the hospital doesn’t discover her pregnancy. They don’t know what to do with a girl with no records, so they ship her off to a Catholic boarding school for orphan girls. Here, the bishop (Bryan Batt) wishes to tame Darlin’ to show the healing power of Jesus Christ so his parish won’t be shut down. Jesus loves profiting off the lives of others. Here, Darlin’ is taught how to read, write, speak, and exist as what society deems as normal. But while Darlin’ is brainwashed by Catholicism, the Woman is searching the countryside for her and her unborn baby. The film switches between these two plot lines until their strange intersection.
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I am dead inside.
The Swerve is horrifying. It is not because of a bloodthirsty serial killer, massive monster, or enraged spirit. It is because of its portrayal of desperation, mental health, and despair. It is a film that digs into the deepest fears that live within the subconscious and put them on screen, which is more terrifying than any paranormal entity.
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We’re all familiar with the white savior narrative, especially in stories about colonialism. These stories usually center on a white man traveling to a strange land to somehow save its natives. In the case of The Mute, its Christian knights who wish to save the pagans from their god-less religion. While it is a film with a rather predictable and common story, and frankly not much new to say about colonialism or forced religious conversion, The Mute utilizes gorgeous cinematography and set pieces to make it stand out in a crowd.
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